For those unfamiliar with the MCA, it's the bill that officially made Guantanamo legal. More specifically, the MCA holds that "alien unlawful enemy combatants" -- i.e., anyone we capture abroad who isn't wearing an official uniform -- lack both the protections of the Geneva Conventions and the right to appeal their detention in federal court.
The Leahy amendment would change that latter part. Alternately known as the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, the amendment would provide detainees with legal recourse to our federal courts. In the end, it would probably even lead to something like the "Terrorists Courts" proposed in a recent Times op-ed: a separate federal court system, analogous to the bankruptcy courts we already have, that handles terrorism cases exclusively.
Such federal oversight wouldn't be perfect, since it would still allow for prisons like Guantanamo. But some federal oversight is better than none at all -- and further, it's probably the best we can do while Bush remains in office.
As a result, if you have a minute, please urge your Senators -- particularly if they're Republican -- to sign on to the Leahy amendment. I just got off the phone with Senator Leahy's office, and it turns out each time they've tried to introduce the amendment, they've gotten stonewalled. They plan on doing so again today, so if you have a spare moment this morning, please call or write your Senator to sign on.
Like I said, the Leahy amendment isn't perfect. But it's the best we can hope for at present, and it would go a long way towards restoring America's legitimacy. It needs to be passed.
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